How to Use Sewing Patterns

The fashion industry is one of the most competitive industry worldwide and behind every company, there is a lot of secret in the sewing patterns. The sewing pattern is the designation of an outfit that requires a beginner to understand in detail before learning how to use the sewing pattern and help the beginner to have an interest in fashion and designing. This article will provide you with basic knowledge about the concept behind the fashion industry.

What is a sewing pattern?

This is a guide or a diagram either on a template, paper, cardboard, or paperboard from which parts of the outfit are traced on to the fabric before designing and sewing it. A good sewing pattern should also include the instructions and method of how to assemble the pieces and follow them in the right order. Though the best sewing pattern should be made from cardboard or paperboard to withstand regular use.

Do I need a pattern to sew?

Yes. You need a pattern to sew due to the following reasons;

-Patterns are made to produce a duplicate that will help in producing multiple pieces in case they are needed in large quantity, thereby beating the customer demand on time instead of crafting each piece.
-It is the core of fashion designing since it involves the skills in pattern making, understating the machines, seam types required, the course stitching of the fabric, and garment construction which are so crucial in manufacturing the garment/apparel.
-Helps in creating an accurate/perfect profile or design of your fabric project thereby reducing errors, damages, and saves you a lot of time.
-A sewing pattern also includes the instructions and method of how to assemble the pieces and follow them in the right order.
-It is essential to help you easily interpret designs and understanding technical ability.
-Using a sewing pattern will help you to expand your imagination and improve your technical abilities.

2 sewing patterns you can get

As mentioned from the above that sewing pattern is a guide or diagram to be followed when making an outfit, therefore it is wise to know that there are 2 sewing patterns that you can get, this includes the following;

1. Block Pattern

A block pattern is a sewing pattern derived from the original draft created from the body with instructions from a pattern manual with all styles and finished patterns included. Besides, block patterns have been tested and approved for fitting and proven to be acceptable with clients or can be from approved style. A block pattern can be made in two ways as follow;

a. Modeling/Draping

Modeling is the most efficient and widely used in the apparel industry. In modeling the block is made with the standard body measurements like the dummy, therefore, the pattern is worn on the dummy to confirm the fittings, then worn out of the dummy, and the individual parts are sketched on the cardboard or paperboard. This method is the primary method for making block pattern, but it consumes a lot of time.

b. Flat method

The flat method comes from the modeling method, but the only difference is that the different parts of the outfit especially the body and sleeves are technically drawn on the flat surface while using measurements, rulers, curves, and straight edges to achieve fast and accurate pattern making; thus, it is widely used in the ready-to-wear-market.

2. Apparel/Working Pattern

This type of sewing pattern is also based on the basic block pattern, but it is derived from sizing systems or accurate body parts measurements taken from a person and drawn on the board or a hard paper. However, in making apparel patterns they accurately consider some allowances such as the trimming, sewing, bottom line, center front line, pleats, and drat to create basic, foundation, or design patterns.

What do sewing pattern markings mean?

Sewing pattern markings are arrays of markings on a sewing pattern to symbolize and guide your sewing procedures before you start your sewing project and familiarize yourself with the markings. The sewing pattern marking are in three major categories, they include;

• Construction
• Fitting adjustments
• Cutting guides

What are the seam allowances?

Seam allowance is the distance between the edge of the fabric and the stitching line/marking on two or more pieces of fabric to be stitched. The standard/commercial seam allowance should range from a quarter an inch to 5/8 inch. The essential of seam allowance is to provide enough extra allowance between the seam line and the cutting edge of the fabric, to ensure the layers have been safely stitched especially the fabrics hat ravels easily, provides allowance space for adjusting the fitting of an outfit to be a little bit lose and also gives you an easier time to work when pressing a seam open or topstitching for the last finishing touches.

How to cut sewing pattern

If you are a beginner before you start cutting pieces of fabric out of sewing fabric you should be able to know how to cut/design pieces of an outfit from the sewing pattern. If you want to cut sewing pattern successfully, please follow the following procedure;

• Layout your tissue paper or sewing pattern diagram.
• Ensure the sewing pattern is crease and wrinkle-free to provide you with an accurate cutting, in case it is wrinkled you can iron it either by pressing a paper on it or using a tissue.
• Check the guide sheet to see which pattern pieces you will need for the view you have chosen by unfolding the pattern pieces and take out the ones that you need, then refold and return the remaining ones to the pattern envelope.
• Start cutting the sewing pattern, however, do not cut on the top of the line, but slightly after the line around very carefully.
• But when you reach the notch you can either cut it inwards or outwards to indicate the notch which will help you to match it with the fabric.
• After you are done cutting the sewing pattern pieces use a warm iron to straighten the pattern pieces for accuracy when cutting the fabric out of the sewing pattern.

If you would prefer to preserve the original sewing pattern then take out the tracing paper/tissue and trace the pattern and cut the pattern from there; hence, you will need to trace it on another piece of paper for you to cut the sewing pattern.

How to cut fabric from a sewing pattern

Before sewing any garment to appear completely good and to have a professional finishing you should be able to understand and pin the grainline for you to cut smooth raw edges that are not jagged or uneven to make a perfect-fitting outfit. However, before cutting the sewing pattern it is worth noting that there are two popular methods of cutting sewing patterns you can use the rotary cutter, scissors, or dressmaking shears. Therefore, for you to achieve a perfect edge you need to follow the following procedures when cutting fabric from the sewing pattern;

• Ensure the fabric is crease and wrinkle-free to provide you with an accurate cutting by warm ironing it either by pressing a paper on it or using a tissue.
• Check the guide sheet to see which pattern pieces you will need for the view you have chosen by unfolding the pattern pieces and take out the ones that you need, then refold and return the remaining ones to the pattern envelope.
• Place the entire fabric on the cutting surface without any part hanging loose over the cutting edge to avoid the fabric from dragging downwards because it can result in imprecise edges. The other reason for spreading the entire fabric on the cutting surface is to let you walk around your cutting table as you cut to avoid moving the fabric and the pattern pieces.
• Secure the fabric onto the sewing pattern using pins by inserting them down into the sewing pattern and the fabric, but ensure they are perpendicular to the edge of the sewing pattern.
• Before cutting ensure the fabric, pattern and the bottom tip of the shears is flat on your cutting surface throughout.
• There are two types of edges on the sewing pattern; the finished edge and the cutting edge. Then, cut the little snip in your fabric perpendicularly to the finishing edge and pull to rip the fabric off to attain straight edges and also it will help you find the grainline correctly.
• Cut the fabric slowly and carefully to achieve smooth and even edges, but do not lift the fabric as you cut and when cutting the notches just cut through directly instead of wasting time cutting around the triangle shapes. However, if you are approaching the corners cut slightly past them for smooth and even edges.

It is also vital to understand that if you are right-handed when cutting the fabric your left hand should be on the fabric close to the cutting line to enable you to cut around the pattern anticlockwise while your left-hand anchors on the pattern piece as you cut. If you are left hand the same should also be done vice versa. When you are done with cutting the sewing pattern, please do not throw or dispose of away the pattern pieces, save them because while sewing here is some part that will require extra fabric for a quality finishing, and after you are done with the sewing project you can dispose of the scrap fabrics.

Tips for using a sewing pattern

Whenever you want to make an outfit it is good to understand how to use the sewing pattern for you to achieve a high-quality sewing project. Therefore, the tips below will guide you on to successfully use the sewing pattern, they include;

• Prepare the fabric by washing it and get rid of wrinkles and creases by warm ironing it to make it flat.
• Read the pattern instructions to understand which pieces will work out to your needs and cut all the pieces slightly after the line by using paper scissors. Then Iron the pieces of sewing patterns to remove the folds, wrinkles, or creases for you to cut fabrics easily.
• Use the size chart to decide which measurements and sizes will suit your project work. However, if you have a sewing pattern overleaf with combined sizes you should cut on the corresponding lines on your pattern, and if they are too close to each other sketch over your desired size for you to easily observe the line that you intend to cut.
• Lay flat the fabric project on the cutting surface and smooth it out to remove the wrinkles and creases. Then lay/arrange the pattern pieces in the right order and at the right sides according to the sewing pattern diagram.
• Ensure that the grainline of the pattern is parallel with the selvages, secure the pattern piece using a pin, and cut around the edges of the fabric matching the pattern edges for accuracy by using a pair of fabric scissors.
• Finally transfer the pattern markings on your pattern pieces to the fabric project by using a fabric pen, snips, or tacking stitches and ensure you follow every step for you to achieve the intended designation of the outfit.

However, there are situations it is not possible to cut the pattern directly from the original pattern
if the seam allowance is not included and when the pattern pieces overlap or printed on both side of the paper, hence, it will require you to trace it on another piece of paper for you to cut the sewing pattern.

How fabric should I buy?

Before you start preparing your fabric on the sewing pattern you should make sure you have enough fabric to match with the sewing pattern and you will require more fabric than what is listed on the sewing pattern instructions for you to have an accurate finishing and the parts of the fabric are well fitted. To you have enough fabric for the project measure each pattern piece by finding out the patterns repeated of the project before purchasing the needed fabric size.

Pattern repeat is the number of inches it takes before the pattern starts all over again, thus, it has a big impact on how much fabric you will require for the project to be complete, for instance, a large repeat will require more size/yardage to complete the project as it will take more fabric waste to match up the large pattern at every seam. Therefore you should bear in mind to invest in a large fabric for you to achieve a more professional finishing for the repeated pattern to match up accurately.

Tips for picking which fabric to use

There are different types of fabrics made from different types of materials and they all vary in thickness depending on the sewing project type required. However, it is very useful to pick the best fabric as suggested by the sewing pattern type for the fabric to work the best according to the style/design of the project. For instance;

• The sewing project

Heavy fabrics are good for the projects that will be worn/used frequently, thus they will need a
fabric that is tough and robust enough to withstand a lot of wear, like winter outfits, denim, canvas, and many more. Therefore, if you intend to do the lightweight project you should stick to the lightweight fabrics instead of using a different type of material that is inappropriate for the project.

• Color

It is good to consider accurately the color of the fabric for it to perfectly meet the necessities of the project. Thus, when picking the right fabric always double-check the color directly under the natural light and compare how it looks against your skin to avoid picking the color that will not pop very much when turned to a garment.

• The size of the fabric.

The size of the fabric will determine if it can complete the intended project. Besides picking the right size fabric will help in minimizing the cost of purchasing more pieces of fabric and also helps to achieve a uniform quality of the project because you might purchase different sizes of fabrics for the same project but the quality of its construction might be a little bit different.

• The Drape

The drape of the fabric is the most important factor in selecting the right piece of fabric to use in any sewing project because it determines how it hangs and is the key element in terms of the garment looks if pleated.

• The Stretch

Whenever you are purchasing the fabric it is also very important to test its stretch by pulling diagonally against the grain for you to understand its stretch. Stretching determines the kind/type of stitching that is required to sew the project, but it is good to consider a fabric with lesser stretch for you to have more natural wear and fall.

Cutting out and pattern matching a skirt piece

A skirt is one of the sewing projects that does not require a lot of creativity since it involves joining two pieces of fabric without the need for a sewing pattern. Below is the procedure of how to cut out and pattern matching a skirt piece.

• Take a piece of fabric to make a skirt, then cut out the right backside and the left-back piece differently for the center back to get a perfect seam to match.
• Press the center seam allowance by turning the underside on the wrong side along the center back seam.
• Take the right side up and lay it on top of the right side up of the fabric and match the pattern along the turned under edge.
• Take and flip over the paper pattern piece and fold the center line under by the seam allowance.
• Fold the edge with the folded under the edge of the left-back piece on the fabric and ensure to match up correctly without a space between the folded fabric and the paper fold.
• Secure them in place using pins, with folds still attached take off the fabric of the left-back piece and unfold the seam allowance on the paper pattern and pin it to the fabric.
• Cut the right back piece by cutting around the paper pattern.
• Pin and tack them before stitching to ensure they match up correctly and hold them in place to confirm.
• It is now ready to sew the two back pieces together to make a perfect skirt.


How do you preserve a sewing pattern?

To preserve your sewing pattern to last longer is by laying the parchment paper on top of the sewing pattern, press the pieces to the lightweight fusible interfacing on the iron board with fusible side up, and simply fuse to the back of the pattern with an iron box to make sure the pieces are firmly fused. Or you can also put all the pieces of the pattern inside the mailing envelope with the pattern envelope taped securely to the front and back of the brown envelope to preserve the sewing pattern.

What does NAP mean on a sewing pattern?

NAP is a phrase for Napped fabric which means that all the pattern pieces are placed on the fabric should simply go in one direction from bottom to the bottom. Therefore, stroking the pile of the fabric in an opposite direction will feel rough especially the woolen, velvet, or moleskin fabric.

What does the 45 and 60 mean on a sewing pattern?

It means the width of the fabric is 45 inches wide and others are 60 inches wide, but in this case, it means that the fabric requirement depends on the width of the fabric you have purchase which could either be 45 or 60 inches wide.

Is it easier to make doll clothes or real clothes?

Making Doll clothes is much easy because its pattern is to follow and does not involve a lot of complicated processes compared to real clothes which will require the detailed instruction to be strictly followed to make a professional finishing on its edges for perfect fitting.

How do I cut multi-size patterns?

There are many ways of cutting the multi-size pattern which you can employ to cut the multi-size patterns to give the same desired finishing. The simplest way is by using grease-proof paper which is tougher but you can see through, hence it allows you to trace, resize, and alter multi-size patterns.


Sewing patterns is the mother of all invention in the sewing industry and it should be well preserved to help in the designation of the garment. Therefore, if you are a beginner it is good to try and put your imagination and talent on the cardboard because you might change the fashion industry to a greater a mile.